Madison 21, Chicago 15
Before the Midwestern Conference Championship opening pull, news broke that Ron Kubalanza wouldn’t be playing due to a hamstring injury. Kubalanza played at the USAU Masters Championships with Kelt last weekend, which could have contributed to the injury. Normally missing just one handler wouldn’t hurt the Wildfire too much, but Kubalanza was one of the few Chicago players that handled well against the Madison zone. On a windy day at Lane Tech Stadium in Chicago, with no Kubalanza and an injured Brodie, that meant there would be a lot of pressure on the remaining Chicago handlers.
Sure enough, Madison came out with their trademark zone to start the game. In their last game the Wildfire held onto the disc for too long, especially on the sideline. This time Chicago didn’t fall victim to that trap, but their decision making early in the stall count made things difficult on them. Madison claimed an early 5-1 lead before Chicago started to wake up.
Jonathan “Goose” Helton had four assists in the first half to bring the Wildfire back in the game, they trailed 8-12 after the second quarter. The wind was making it difficult for both teams to find their cutters, so handlers often had to work several swings before enough space opened up. Brodie Smith played several points in the second quarter, but only D points, a questionable strategic decision for a player that literally couldn’t run. He had to call switches any time his man moved away from him. He wasn’t healthy enough to be playing, and any offense he provided (which was minimal) was more than negated by poor defense.
After trading the first few points of the second half, the wheels completely fell off for the Wildfire. Madison went on another 5-1 run to take a 19-11 lead, and any suspense was totally drained from the game. The Radicals were getting open up the line time and again, and the Wildfire’s defense was either too tired, slow, or dejected to do anything about it. Helton had several miscommunications resulting in turnovers with other handlers or cutters, expecting them to make cuts they didn’t, but by that point the game already seemed out of reach for Chicago. Several Radicals stood out in their 21-15 win. Dave Wiseman did have six turnovers, easily the highest on the team. But they were usually upwind hucks to the end zone. Those tend to be the most forgivable turnovers. He finished the game with two goals, four assists, and two D’s. Tom Annen had seven assists with only two turnovers.
Toronto 25, New York 18
Among the four teams at the AUDL Championship weekend, none was a bigger underdog than the New York Empire. The Empire had already lost to Toronto three times, their closest game was a 9-16 loss played in miserable conditions. Even with a relatively full roster (though New York was missing Seth Canetti) there wasn’t much reason to think that this game would go any differently for New York.
The Rush only managed one break in the first quarter, but started the second on a 3-0 run. Even after the Empire started the game playing tough man defense, the Rush looked poised to take over the game. But with New York’s D-Line receiving the pull they managed to score where their O-Line couldn’t. After two breaks by their D-Line they were only down two, and the first half ended with New York trailing 8-10.
In the third quarter Husayn Carnegie stepped up big time for the Empire. He finished the game with three goals, one assist, three D’s, and no turnovers. But even with a great game and particularly great quarter from Carnegie, the Rush lead grew to 18-14 at the end of the quarter.
Carnegie continued with the big plays in the fourth quarter, including a chest high layout grab. Jack Marsh was playing great for New York too, he finished with three goals and five assists. With Carnegie and Marsh helping carry the load for New York, the Rush only led 20-18 in the closing minutes. Mike Drost got a big D for New York, and they had all the momentum. It seemed like an upset might be in the making. But in key situations New York players held onto the disc too late in the count. Sometimes they forced hero throws, like Aaron Bell trying to find Carnegie in the end zone on a low percentage hammer, or were left with no options, resulting in blown dump throws. Toronto capitalized whenever given the opportunity, and closed the game with a 5-0 run, winning 25-18. It was an unfortunate end for a team that had played perhaps their best game of Ultimate. Few thought that New York would be able to generate enough turns playing man defense against the Rush, but they most certainly did. They had an opportunity to take control of the game in the fourth quarter, but made costly errors, and Toronto made the most of them. Mark Lloyd was especially key in the Toronto win, finishing with two goals, three assists, just one turnover, and 33 for 34 on his throws, fantastic numbers for a cutter.
Even in a closer than expected game, Toronto looked good. If their defense is as strong against Madison as it was New York, particularly their handler defense, things are going to be very difficult for the Radicals. Of course, they’ll be facing an entirely different kind of defense. New York played an effective hard man defense, whereas Madison is likely to throw their zone. Toronto likes to play matchups, so playing against zone isn’t their first choice. And it remains to be seen how effective their handlers can be against that kind of defense. The championship promises to be an interesting game, especially since it will be the first interconference game of the year.
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